When should I give consequences to my kids? What does God think? Join AMBrewster as he helps Christian parents understand the what the Bible says about consequences and punishment.
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Listen to the following episodes on Apple Podcasts by clicking the titles.
“Should I Ever Ignore My Child’s Sin?” (episode 31)
“Spare the Rod | Punishment Versus Correction” (episode 74)
“Discipline that Softens the Heart” (episode 89)
“Speed Parenting” series (starts in episode 115)
“The Four Children” series (starts in episode 55)
“Your Parenting is Not in Vain” (episode 224)
“Fearless Parenting” (episode 40)
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I hope the Children and Shame series we just finished was a huge help to you and your parenting. If you didn’t hear it, please check it out, and if you did and it was a blessing to you, TeamTLP and I would love to hear about it.
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Thank you Scott and Mindee for loving God and our families enough to give to make these resources possible.
Okay, so today we’re talking about consequences and asking whether or not we should drag our feet when handling them out or if we should jump at the opportunity.
But our discussion is not going to deal too much with the kinds of consequences we give or even how to give those consequences. I recommend you listen to a couple other episodes to help fill out your biblical understanding concerning those concepts,
We can say this for sure . . . to be a godly Ambassador Parent, we need to give consequences, both painful and enjoyable.
But, like I said, today we’re focusing on the timing of our consequences. So let’s set the stage:
Your child colors on the wall. They lie to you. They take something that doesn’t belong to them. They refuse to go to bed. They sneak out of the house. They passive-aggressively defy you at every turn. They punch a hole in the wall.
All of those scenarios sound so different. Each of them is as unique as the individuals listening to the sound of my voice. And what complicates it even more is that every child is different.
And so an argument could definitely be made that it’s impossible to set a hard, fast standard because wisdom dictates that the right consequences should be applied in the right situation and that figuring out that best choice might be faster in some situations and take longer in others.
So, let me lay out a couple considerations before I present the Scripture into which I want to dig.
1. Proverbs 18:13 tells us that “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” Please understand that all of my counsel today assumes that we have taken our time to truly know the issue as well as what God says about the issue.
I’m not advocating for any kind of reactionary parenting or parenting that conveniently ignores the issue to “keep peace in the house.”
My advice today is going to deal with situations where we’ve taken all the time necessary to discover the heart problem so we can parent the fruit, root, and Truth like we discussed in the “Speed Parenting” series.
But I can also say that the more we parent, the faster we can respond to frequent offenders. Let’s be honest, most of the times our kids sin these days, it’s not the first time they did it or said it.
2. Consequences are part of the Interpretation (or Reproof) Stage of parenting. This assumes that we’ve already taught our kids what is right and wrong and that our children have chosen to live contrary to God’s revealed will.
Remember, just as it’s inappropriate to use shame in situations where our kids didn’t know the Truth, it’s equally inappropriate to use disciplinary consequences if our kids legitimately didn’t know a certain behavior was a sin.
Alright, now let’s turn our attention to Ecclesiastes 8:10-13.
“10 Then I saw the wicked buried.”
Solomon starts with an observation that these wicked people have received the ultimate consequence of their sin. Because all men are sinners, it’s appointed unto us once to die, and then the judgement. And — in the case of the wicked — that judgement results in an eternal second death.
So, how did the wicked get there? Solomon’s about to tell us.
“They used to go in and out of the holy place and were praised in the city where they had done such things. This also is vanity.”
Though these men were wicked in death, many people thought they were righteous in life.
Listen, if you’ve never listened to “The Four Children” series, you really should. The episodes about the Rocky and Thorny Hearted children are so important because these kids are completely unsaved, but they don’t realize it. They think they’re born again. Often, people around them will think they’re born again too — and that makes it even more dangerous.
I believe the individuals being described here were Rocky-Hearted people. They and many others believed they had a righteous relationship with God, but they did not. Then they died and faced the judgement.
This teaches us that mere righteous-looking behavior is not an indication of a truly righteous heart.
The phrase at the end of the verse, “this also is vanity,” is used all throughout Ecclesiastes and communicates that their lives were worthless and empty regardless of what people thought.
We discussed how to not parent in vain in episode 224. That’s a very encouraging episode that builds on this idea.
So, Solomon has introduced us to a group of people who have received the condemnation of their life choices even though they had a superficially righteous lifestyle. And then Solomon gives us a very interesting understanding of how they got to this place.
Solomon’s working backward through time from their death to their youth.
Now, before I read this life-changing verse, I want to remind you download our free episode notes at TruthLoveParent.com so you can check out the verses we cite today and an outline of the discussion. It will be very helpful in truly grasping the depth of the next verse.
Okay, so listen to what Solomon says in verse eleven. This is outstanding.
“11 Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil.”
Did you catch that?
The word “sentence” refers to a decree or an edict as relating to a legal sentencing and carries with it the idea that the person sentenced received the consequences of his choices.
“11 Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil.”
We could put it this way, “The heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil[,] because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily.”
Let’s reword it one more time. Our children’s hearts will become more and more set on evil if we do not deal with their sin speedily.
And then Solomon finishes the thought by saying,“12 Though a sinner does evil a hundred times and prolongs his life, yet I know that it will be well with those who fear God, because they fear before him. 13 But it will not be well with the wicked, neither will he prolong his days like a shadow, because he does not fear before God.”
He wraps up the idea by changing his focus ever so slightly. He points out that even if a man is thought to be a good guy, if he sets his heart on evil, he will receive the ultimate consequence of God.
Only those who fear the Lord can rest assured that they will receive His care and protection.
Here’s an interesting Brewster paraphrase, “If you don’t consequence your children’s sin, God will do it for you . . . and His consequences will be infinitely worse than ours.”
Not only that, but our consequences happen during the Interpretation Stage of parenting in order to draw our children to correction, but God’s consequences are final. They aren’t designed to draw anyone to Him, they’re designed to do what we shouldn’t do . . . they’re designed to punish the sin.
Really, I don’t know how much more can be said about this.
It’s so clear.
But, in order to avoid any confusion, I want to re-clarify some of these philosophies so we don’t misapply it.
1. Christ-honoring parental “sentencing” (we’re going to call it discipline) is not a hurried, emotional, selfish, knee-jerk response that we throw out in the moment because God says our consequences need to be speedy.
No, and double-no. We must be wise. We must draw out our kids’ hearts. We need to work down from the fruit to the root and then identify the Truth that will address the root problem that will then affect the fruit — the presenting problem.
So, even though the Bible says the consequences should be speedy, they should not be shoddy. We need to take an appropriate amount of time to understand the problem and formulate a Christ-honoring response.
Also, I acknowledge that some decisions will be much easier to make while others may take days. The point is that we shouldn’t be foolish in our discipline, and we should be as immediate as we can be.
2. Christ-honoring discipline will not suffer the paralysis of analysis.
It’s appropriate to take the right amount of time to determine how to handle a situation, but there’s no need to be paralyzed.
This is where our parenting communities are so very helpful. Perhaps you’ve never had a child refuse to go to the bathroom, but instead, find a secret corner to relieve himself. Perhaps you have no idea what biblical truth may come to bear on this situation.
Lord willing, you have at least one mature Christian parent who can share God’s Truth with you and help you apply it to your situation.
You should also be able to discuss it with your pastor. Absolute worst case scenario — you should be able to connect with a biblical counselor or contact us at counselor@TruthLoveParent.com. We’d be happy to help relieve you of your parenting coma.
Either way, in our day and age, we have more than enough resources to be able to learn to apply God’s Word to our parenting issues.
3. Christ-honoring discipline will neither ignore nor forget to address sin.
Let’s be honest, we neglect our children’s disobedience because we’re forgetful, lazy, or afraid.
First, often times my child’s sin just isn’t that memorable, or dealing with the issue in the moment isn’t more important than running the program we have scheduled, or it was a big deal — I put effort into how I was going to address it later — but then life came in and I forgot.
And though this will happen to everyone, and though God is way big enough to sanctify our kids despite our forgetfulness, it’s still a bad habit we need to squelch in our lives.
It’s amazing to me the trivia and random facts adults can remember. It’s also astounding how we can — with laser focus — zero in on a future date that’s important to us. We definitely have the ability to remember to deal with our kids’ sinful choices; we just need to make it important enough.
Second, sometimes it’s not forgetfulness that causes us to not address a sin; we just don’t want to deal with the issue.
Often this happens because we don’t think the issue is that big of a deal — at least not big enough to worry about dealing with now.
Listen, as the Lead Counselor at Victory Academy for Boys, few parents realize how a decade of “little” sins can create a tapestry of destruction in their teens.
If God calls it sin, we need to call it sin. And if it’s sin, it needs to be addressed.
Sure, not every sin will be addressed the same way, but they will be addressed. Sometimes it will include discipline that hurts, and sometimes it won’t.
The point is, we can’t afford to be lazy when it comes to parenting.
And third, I don’t know about you, but I have often chosen to not address sin issues in the guys at Victory Academy because I’m afraid of how they’re going to respond. Sometimes this can be fed by my laziness — I’m afraid that if I make one statement, I’m going to have to dedicate the next 45 minutes to helping deescalate the guy’s stupid response.
And sometimes we don’t deal with it because we’re genuinely afraid our kids will hurt us, brake something, or hurt themselves.
By the way, if this sounds like something with which you struggle, we have an episode called “Fearless Parenting” which should be a huge blessing to you. I encourage you to check it out.
But even then, fear is not an appropriate reason to ignore a sin in my child. In fact, many times it was our poor parenting that brought us to the place where we now feel afraid to parent.
My forgetfulness kept me from addressing my child’s sin which built a habit in them, but since I let it go for so many years because of my forgetfulness, now it’s just a normal thing — “it’s just how they are” — and my laziness keeps me from dealing with it until it becomes such an obvious problem — and the kid has developed so many other bad responses to reproof — that now I’m afraid to address it . . . all because I didn’t see sin the same way God did and consequence it as soon as I should.
May we never find ourselves in that position.
I believe this passage and various commands and principles in Scripture support the fact that we shouldn’t wait any longer than we actually have to to give consequences for sin. We should only wait until we understand the situation and biblical remedy and have an environment that makes it easier to accept reproof.
And for most of the issues we encounter in a day, that will be very immediate. Others will take longer, but most are quite simple.
“The heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil[,] because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily.”
Please share this episode so we can lay a foundation in our families that will make it easier for us to speak Truth into each other’s lives, and join us for our next episode where we discuss the difference between socializing and civilizing our kids.
Life is so much bigger than our activities, programs, schedules, and dreams. Life is about accomplishing God’s purposes in His ways for His reasons in His power . . . in His timing.
So, to that end, I’ll see you next time.
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